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"With or Without You" a short essay.

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"With or Without You" by�U2

July 22, 2009 · Leave a Comment

Okay, this is an opinion piece, but it's a correct opinion.

U2's "With or Without You" is the greatest pop song ever written. I won't even entertain any argument to the contrary. Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and The Beatles' "All You Need is Love" are the only other two songs that even come close.

And if a critique of "With or Without You" lends itself to hyperbole, maybe that has something to do with the way Bono's trademark Irish holler oscillates so effectively between desire and regret throughout the last half of this song, stretching a single syllable into an epic simile of rock-n'-roll pathos.

Look me in the eye and tell me truly that you have not, when alone, tried to imitate that anguished, tear-soaked wail. Swear to me that you have never shut your eyes and shouted out your own "Woah-oah-oah-oah! Woah-oah-ah-oah-oah!" If you can do that, I will call you a liar to your lying liar face.

No one can listen to "With or Without You" and not be swept up. It's a broken-hearted manifesto, and it's as close as any pop song has ever come to perfection. The greatest love songs are necessarily about not having a person. The best love songs - the really, really great ones - are never about happiness. They're about heartache. They operate as stand-ins for the objects of our desire, and echo through the empty part of our hearts.

A happy love song makes us feel happy by reminding us of happy times; that's an easy trick. By contrast, a beautiful sad song is tasked with making painful things pleasant. It's the job of a sad song to make torment beautiful and "With or Without You" does that better than any other song; it sums up in its title and its chorus the drama associated with every screwed up, on-again-off-again relationship any of us has ever experienced:

With or without you,

With or without you,

I can't live with or without you.

I write this with the knowledge that somewhere out there is a fifteen year-old kid who has never heard this song before, or at least never really listened to it. Somewhere there is a teenager whose heart is breaking for the very first time. And I want to send that kid a message: go out and buy this song - today. It will change your life.

Categories: Songs · Thoughts on pop music

Tagged: U2, Songs, Music, Song, U2 lyrics, With or Without You, With or Without You lyrics, best rock songs, best pop songs, best love songs, love songs, best U2 songs

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